Charanjit Singh Channi to be next Punjab Chief Minister
All India Congress Committee (AICC) on Sunday announced Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh, as the leader of Punjab Congress Legislature Party (CLP), who would also be expected to be the State’s next Chief Minister. The move, coming ahead of the Assembly elections early next year, seems aimed at neutralising both the Shiromani Akali Dal-BSP alliance, and the BJP’s bid to attract Dalit voters. AICC in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat announced the name of new CLP leader on twitter. It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Sh. #CharanjitSinghChanni has been unanimously elected as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab, he said. Channi was one among the Cabinet ministers who rebelled against Capt. Amarinder Singh, expressing lack of faith in the leadership of the Chief Minister in fulfilling the party’s 2017 Assembly election promises. As per the 2011 Census, Dalits comprise nearly one-third (32%) of the Punjab population. AICC-appointed observers Harish Chaudhary and Ajay Maken, and Punjab affairs incharge Harish Rawat were in Chandigarh and held meetings with party leaders and collected feedback from MLAs ahead of the announcement. Earlier, on September 18 in the CLP meeting, the party MLAs had passed a resolution in which the Congress president was authorised to select the CLP leader. The announcement came a day after the Congress high command forced the resignation of Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ahead of a Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting convened by the AICC on September 18. The final decision of the new chief minister was left to the party president Sonia Gandhi.
India may soon allow foreign tourists in view of declining COVID-19 cases
Amid a decline in COVID-19 cases in the country, India may soon reopen its doors to foreign tourists for the first time in one-and-a-half years, officials said. The first five lakh foreign tourists will be issued visas free of cost in an attempt to revive the tourism, hospitality and aviation sectors badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020, when a nationwide lockdown was announced. Top Union Home Ministry officials are deliberating with all stakeholders on the expected date and modalities for opening up of the country for foreign tourists. A formal announcement allowing foreign tourists to visit India may come within the next ten days, an official from the Home Ministry said. The decision is being taken in view of the declining number of COVID-19 cases in the country. India’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage has also crossed 80 crore. The free visa to the tourists will be issued till March 31, 2022, or the issuance of five lakh visa, whichever is earlier. The total financial implication for this would be ₹100 crore. The free visa move is expected to incentivise short-term tourists visiting India, the official said. The cost for a month-long e-tourist visa is country-specific but is around $25. A year-long multiple entry e-tourists visa charge is around $40. The e-tourist visa has been suspended since March 2020. Home Ministry officials said they are still deliberating whether the entry of foreign tourists will be allowed with certain conditions, such as limiting it only to vaccinated travellers for now and having a negative list of countries where COVID-19 cases remain a concern. The opening up is also expected to be phase-wise to see the response and implications, another official said. Many countries, including some of those in Europe, have already opened up for tourism.
BJP uses Taliban, Afghanistan, Pakistan to garner votes: Mehbooba
Accusing the BJP of playing politics over the issues of Taliban, Afghanistan and Pakistan to garner votes, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on September 19 alleged that the seven-year-rule of the saffron party has brought miseries to the people of the country and left Jammu and Kashmir destroyed. She claimed that it is not Hindus but the democracy and India which are in danger under the BJP rule, which has undone all the good work of the past 70 years of the Congress and started selling national resources and raising the prices of essentials to fill its coffers and to buy or intimidate opposition legislators. The former chief minister taunted her critics and said the mere mention of Taliban or the party’s vision of self-rule makes her anti-national and triggers debates and discussions even as the focus should have been the ongoing agitation of the farmers, inflation and other issues of public importance. Jammu and Kashmir is in trouble and so is the entire country…they say Hindus are in danger but they are not in danger and in fact it is India and the democracy which are in danger because of them (BJP), Mufti said, addressing a rally organised by the youth wing of her party here. Mufti reached Jammu late on September 18 after a five-day tour of Poonch and Rajouri districts, facing a small protest by a group of Rashtriya Bajrang Dal activists whose attempt to stop her cavalcade near Dogra chowk in the city was foiled by police. As the elections in different States come nearer, the BJP will start cashing on the god-given opportunity of Taliban and Afghanistan and if it would not work, they will bring Pakistan and drones into picture, the PDP chief said. They will not talk about China, which has intruded into Ladakh because they do not get votes by talking about that country. If you want to frighten people, talk about Taliban, Afghanistan and Pakistan and do something here and there and seek votes, she said. Referring to the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Mufti alleged that the BJP’s incumbent State chief minister failed to provide jobs, roads and schools, while the river Ganga, which is considered sacred by the people of the country, became a dumping ground for human corpses because people do not have the money to perform the last rites of their relatives. Mufti said the BJP is watching what she is saying to trigger a debate in media. The farmers’ agitation, growing unemployment, inflation and other issues facing the country should have been the focus of our debates but there is no discussion on these important issues. Since the elections in U.P. are drawing closer, there will be more discussion on Taliban and Afghanistan, she said. Mufti said there are debates on the oppressive measures adopted by the Taliban against women in Afghanistan but nobody is talking about the women of India who are facing rapes and dowry deaths. I know unemployment is such that we cannot provide jobs to everyone. Mufti had a plan to address this problem but if I name the plan which is self-rule, I will be dubbed as anti-national and it will trigger debates and discussions, she said.
Rahul Gandhi takes dig at government over record COVID-19 vaccinations
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday took a swipe at the government over the record COVID-19 vaccinations in a single day, and said the event is over now. He also shared a graph of the vaccination trend in the last 10 days as per data from the Cowin website to show the decline in inoculations after the record. India vaccinated 2.5 crore people on a single day in Friday to mark Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday. Using the hashtag vaccination, Gandhi said in a tweet, Event over. Gandhi on Saturday had hoped more such record vaccinations happened in the country. Looking forward to many more days of 2.1 crore vaccinations. This pace is what our country needs, he had said on Twitter.
After recalling ambassadors, French Minister decries ‘duplicity’ in U.S.-Australia submarine deal
France’s Foreign Minister on Saturday denounced what he called the duplicity, disdain and lies surrounding the sudden rupture of France’s lucrative contract to make submarines for Australia in favour of a U.S. deal and declared that a crisis is at hand among the Western allies. A day after France recalled its ambassadors to the United States and Australia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pummeled what he suggested was a backroom deal that betrayed France. The recalling of its ambassadors signifies the force of the crisis today between the French government and Washington and Canberra, he said in an interview on France 2 television. He said it was the first time ever that France, the United States’ oldest ally, has recalled its ambassador to the United States. The announcement by President Joe Biden of the deal, alongside the leaders of Australia and Britain, for at least eight nuclear-powered submarines has set France in a fury. France had signed a contract in 2016 for a dozen conventional diesel-electric submarines and the work to make them was already underway. The deal with French majority state-owned Naval Group was worth at least $66 billion. Diplomatic niceties have gone out the window as French authorities seek to make their anger known. Le Drian denied reports that there had been advance consultations with France ahead of the announcement, saying this isn’t true. Allies don’t treat each other with such brutality, such unpredictability, a major partner like France. So there really is a crisis, Le Drian said. There are reasons for us to question the strength of our alliance, Le Drian said. Earlier, France’s ambassador to Australia also strayed from diplomatic language when describing what has been widely billed in France as the contract of the century. This has been a huge mistake, a very, very bad handling of the partnership, French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thebault said before flying home to France. The arms agreement between France and Australia, signed in 2016, was supposed to be based on trust, mutual understanding and sincerity, a fuming Thebault said. I would like to be able to run into a time machine and be in a situation where we don’t end up in such an incredible, clumsy, inadequate, un-Australian situation. He said he found out about the canceled contract in the Australian press. Le Drian said in a written statement Friday that the French decision to recall its ambassadors — at the request of President Emmanuel Macron — is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements made by Australia and the United States.
Taliban-run Kabul govt. tells women workers to stay home.
Women employees in the Kabul city government have been told to stay home, with work only allowed for those who cannot be replaced by men, the interim Mayor of Afghanistan’s capital said on Sunday. The decision to prevent most women city workers from returning to their jobs is another sign that the Taliban are going back on their promises that they would be tolerant and inclusive. In their previous rule in the 1990s, the Taliban had barred girls and women from schools, jobs and public life. In recent days, the new Taliban government issued several decrees rolling back the rights of women. It told women middle-and high school students that they could not return to school. On Friday, the Taliban shut down the Women’s Affairs Ministry, replacing it with a Ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice. On Sunday, over a dozen women staged a protest outside the Ministry, holding up signs calling for the participation of women in public life. A society in which women are not active is (sic) dead society, one sign read. The protest lasted for about 10 minutes. After a short verbal confrontation with a man, the women got into cars and lef. Interim Kabul Mayor Hamdullah Namony said the women employees have been ordered to stay home, pending a further decision. He said exceptions were made for women who could not be replaced by men, including some in the design and engineering departments and the attendants of public toilets for women. Namony did not say how many women employees were forced to stay home. Meanwhile in Jalalabad, witnesses said an explosion targeted a Taliban vehicle. Hospital officials said five people were killed in the second such deadly blast in as many days in the Islamic State stronghold.